Making a mockery of secularism, the Congress-led UPA government once again submitted meekly to the dictates of the obscurantist forces and went along in preventing Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. It happened openly this time — no camouflage.
Secularism today has reached a point where it actually means the state will encourage a cut-throat competition among all shades of religion. A strong movement of secular, democratic-minded people is the need of the hour.
Satya Veer Singh,
The censoring out of Mr. Rushdie from the literary festival is not an isolated event. India's secularism is at stake. Every religious festival is increasingly becoming a state-sponsored event. Secular-minded writers and artists find it difficult to publish their creative works for fear of being banned by the state and manhandled by vandals.
V. Prasanna Kumar,
Mr. Rushdie's The Satanic Verses not only offended religious sentiments of Muslims but also incited violence and shattered peace. India was the first country to ban the novel. But some literary figures read out passages from it in the Jaipur festival. This has put a question mark on their credibility.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi,
This is in response to the article “Salman Rushdie & India's new theocracy” (Jan. 21) by Praveen Swami. Every time we proscribe independent thinkers, we betray the fundamentals we hold so dear to our hearts, and betray the ‘republican' mandate of our Constitution. It is true that some sections may disapprove of the writings of an individual. They quickly assume that because they are “hurt,” they have a right to protest and that others forfeit their right to speak or even defend themselves.
I agree when a work is banned, it should not be published in any form and so the organisers had to prevent the reading of The Satanic Verses. But the work is freely available on the internet that transcends the national and notional boundaries of law.
Have not those who read out from the banned book broken the law of the land? One may have one's views on whether or not the ban is justified but can one defy the ban? We know the book is easily available. The ban is meant to respect the sentiments of those who feel its plot is against the sentiments of Muslims.
A.M. Ibrahim Ansari,
Knowing full well that the festival is being conducted in a volatile atmosphere, what was the need for the participants to read out from The Satanic Verses? I am sure most participants would have already read the book. Mr. Rushdie deserves a special mention here because he dropped his plan to participate in the festival. He understood that his presence should not prove a potential threat to others
I wish to register my strong objection to Mr. Swami's article. There is a limit to all freedoms. This is the reason why we are not allowed to make hate-speeches, why organisations such as the LTTE, the LeT, and the Hizb are banned. As for the threat of assassinating Mr. Rushdie, Muslim groups did not issue any. Nor did any newspaper or television news channel report such a thing.
Faisal Ahmed Khan,
From day one, states have been protecting Mr. Rushdie in the name of fundamental right. What about his fundamental duty, which he violated by playing with the sentiments of a community? Mr. Swami should take an unbiased view — like the Deoband did when it called on people to come together against the ban on the Bhagavadgita in Russia.
Instead of making efforts to make our nation truly progressive, our elected representatives have failed us and the Constitution's ideals by bending over backwards to appease faith-based groups. ‘We, the people' must ensure that the ‘theocratic dystopia' does not reach the monstrous proportions and forms it is capable of. I believe that Mr. Rushdie cancelling his visit to the Jaipur festival is a matter of collective shame.
If the UPA government's aim was to prevent Mr. Rushdie from attending the Jaipur festival, so that the Congress could get Muslim votes in the U.P. elections, it may succeed to some extent. But it has failed miserably in preventing the Rushdie spirit from pervading the festival.
Mr. Rushdie dominated the minds of all those present and those who followed the proceedings. Let our politicians learn that free minds cannot be controlled.
The debate on multiculturalism and offensive speech is a burning topic across the world, affecting everything from politics to literature. Mr. Rushdie hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in The Satanic Verses. Religion survives on faith and no one has the right hurt it.
Secularism now means the freedom of clerics to do what they like. When acts of religious fundamentalism undermine communal harmony, the state prefers not to initiate prosecution against the divisive forces. “Organised religion, allying itself to theology and often more concerned with its vested interests, produces narrowness and intolerance, credulity and superstition … India must therefore lessen her religiosity and turn to science. She must get rid of the exclusiveness in thought and social habit which has made life a prison to her, stunting her spirit and preventing growth” wrote Jawaharlal Nehru in The Discovery of India. But, in 1989, his grandson offered secularism on a platter to fundamentalism by banning The Satanic Verses.
Till such time as the Constitution is in force, no politics will succeed in undermining secularism. It took 64 years for us to make education a right. True, we have grave issues but they will be overcome. What we need is a sense of political and social maturity. Let us wait. Let education, science and literature play their part. It took 350 years for the Church to admit that Galileo Galilei was right. Maybe, it will take longer in India but we need to keep working in that direction.
I seriously wonder whether religion can be permanently removed from an individual's life. Even if I were an atheist, I would have to pray in school, in office. We, for some reason or the other, are dependent on nature (nature worship is directly or indirectly linked to religion). Hence, it is difficult to remove the element of religion entirely from one's life. What we can do is be more tolerant.